On September 11, 2001, the small businesses surrounding the site of the World Trade Center would come face to face with their greatest hurdle, in both business and life. A proud group of resilient, loyal New Yorkers, they watched the unimaginable tragedy unfold from their store windows, eventually fleeing the destruction, leaving their livelihood behind them. In a matter of minutes, nearly 14 million square feet of bustling office space was destroyed, 65,000 jobs were relocated and nearly 20,000 residents were displaced from their homes, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York. Buried under ash, debris and the weighty sorrow of the attacks, shopkeepers returned to a toxic ghost town, to clean up, rebuild and breathe life back into Lower Manhattan.
With a tumultuous decade behind them, many now face new challenges as the shadow of One World Trade Center expands across the cityscape. Once an area laden with banks and Fortune 500 corporations, Lower Manhattan has become more of a residential haven. Today, the shops are welcoming a new wave of customers and revived tourism thanks to the new construction and the 9/11 memorial. Many are still awaiting the return of normalcy, while others are busy embracing a new downtown and a new era in business.
From the stoops of their shops, restaurants and salons, these beacons of small business share a story of survival unlike any other.